Pedal Valves opens Southeast Regional Wednesday with eye on World Series

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Taking the next step.

That is the goal for Louisiana American Legion baseball champion Pedal Valves.

For the third time in four years, the independent legion team comprised of players from several different schools is heading to regional play, this time in the Southeast regional at Tampa beginning Wednesday where seven other state champions will also vie for the right to head to the American Legion World Series at Shelby, NC Aug. 15-20.

Pedal Valves has been to two previous Mid-South regionals but could never get to the World Series. Now, the New Orleans area team will have a shot at a new site, against new opposition, in the Southeast regional at the University of Tampa.

In 2016, Pedal Valves went two-and-out in its first regional appearance while in 2017, the Cardinals reached the semifinals before bowing out.

Danny Riehm has coached Pedal Valves to all three of its state championships.

“You learn and get better with experience,” Riehm said. “We learned in 2016. We got better in 2017. We hope to better this time around.”

Pedal Valves opens play Wednesday at 11 a.m. Central time against Troy, AL Post 70 (23-8) in the double elimination tournament. The winner will play the winner of the Wednesday night matchup pitting Columbia, TN Post 19 and West Tampa, FL Thursday at 4 p.m. while the loser of the opening game will play an elimination game at 11 a.m. Thursday.

The Cardinals (31-7) are playing their best ball of the season, having won 15 of their last 16 games.

“This is a group that has really reeled off an impressive streak here at the end of the season,” Riehm said.

This year, he did so with players from Archbishop Rummel, De La Salle, Destrehan, Delgado, Hahnville, Lutcher, Riverside Academy, St. Charles Catholic, St. Martin’s Episcopal.

The team chemistry is outstanding.

“It is because they are really playing for each other,” Riehm said. “They care about each other. They come to work hard every day. They never quit. You talk about teams playing to the last out. This is one of those clubs. They fight, fight, fight. It’s a great group of guys. You’ve got these guys to buy in on teams like this. They’ve never played ball together before and it’s really got to become a situation where they are trying to do something special. They like each other.”

Delgado’s Stephen Klein of De La Salle has been a key piece the puzzle. Klein has been an important pitcher, along playing first base and outfield for the Cardinals.

“It’s an honor being the team from Louisiana going all the way to Tampa,” Klein said. “I feel like if we play our game and do our jobs in Tampa, we’ll have a trip to Shelby, NC.”

Klein feels Pedal Valves has a very spirited competitive nature.

“We play like dogs,” Klein said. “We play every pitch like it’s the last out. Whatever comes our way, we’re going to be ready. We’re on a hot streak right now. We want to keep that going. I feel like we’re going to hold our own destiny. I feel like if we play every day like we did in the state tournament, like every pitch is our last time playing, we’ll be okay. We play as one.”

Another important player for the Cardinals is Avery Schexnaydre of Destrehan, who has shined at third base and designated hitter for Pedal Valves.

“It’s been really fun playing with my teammates from different places,” Schexnaydre said. “You meet some new guys and they’re all fun. It’s been a really good summer. The split in high school baseball means nothing. We all get along very well. Our depth is key. Anybody can go in any spot and get the job done. We’re just good all around.”

Schexnaydre believes in the chances of Pedal Valves in Florida.

“I think we have a really good chance going into this,” Schexnaydre said. “We’ve been rolling all summer. We’ve been working hard, practicing hard, playing hard. We’ve got a really good pitching staff and hit the ball well. I think we’ve got a really good shot at this. We don’t give up. The fight in this team is good.”

In Tampa, the Cardinals will compete with state championships from Alabama (Troy), Florida (Tallahassee Post 13), Mississippi (Tupelo), Tennessee (Columbia) and South Carolina (Greer Post 115) along with South Carolina runner-up Fort Mill Post 43 and the host team, West Tampa Post 248.

It takes a wealth of pitching to get to the World Series. Do the Cardinals have enough pitching depth?

“Absolutely,” Riehm said. “We’ve got a lot of top arms, guys that we can run out there and they will keep us in the game with really good competition.”

Winning in Florida will take the absolute best effort of the Cardinals.

“It’s going to be a really tough regional,” Riehm said. “You talk about baseball powerhouse-type states when you think of Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi. Those are really solid baseball states. It would be a great honor to win it and go to North Carolina. It’s the next step for the program. That’s really been our goal since day one.”

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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